With Christmas just around the corner, here is everything you need to know about your rights when making those special purchases.
We’ve all been there. You purchase that dress you love but when you get it home it (a) doesn’t fit; (b) looks awful; or (c) for no reason at all you decide that you hate it completely. You therefore take the item back to the shop to ask for a refund only to be told that you cannot have one.
Your rights as a consumer are governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 where you purchase ‘goods’ (for example a dress or T-shirt) or the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, where you are provided with a ‘service’ (e.g. eating out at a restaurant or a mobile phone contract). Many people know little about their rights arising from these Acts.
It is worth bearing in mind that these Acts only apply to consumers and therefore do not apply if you are buying something in the course of a business.
‘Goods’ that you purchase must fit the description given when they were sold to you, must be fit for the purpose for which they were sold and must be of satisfactory quality. Satisfactory quality will be determined based upon the standard that a reasonable person would believe to be satisfactory, taking into account all of the circumstances, for example the price of the item.
1. Buying the wrong version
If you purchase the wrong version of something, for example a fridge which does not fit in your kitchen, this in itself does not make the item faulty. However, if you had asked a shop worker for the measurements of the fridge, and these had been incorrectly given to you causing you to purchase the wrong size, this means that the goods are not fit for the purpose for which they were sold to you and you can ask for your money back.
2. Second Hand Goods
Buying second hand goods from a private seller means that your rights are nowhere near as strong as buying from a shop, unless of course the seller explicitly misleads you in order to encourage you to purchase their item.
If you purchase an item and later decide that it is unsuitable, unless it is faulty, the shop is under no obligation to take your goods back and provide a refund. That said, even though they are not obliged to provide a refund, plenty of shops still do, and it may be worth making an enquiry anyway. Many high street stores have returns policies allowing you to return an item within a set timeframe. But keep in mind, these are goodwill policies and cannot be expected as a right.
4. Credit Notes
If you are returning an item which is not faulty and the policy of the particular shop is to provide a credit note, then you will have to accept this. Remember, they are under no legal oblication to exchange non-faulty items. If you are provided with a credit note, ensure that you read the terms for using it and keep in mind the timeframe in which you have to spend it.
5. Sold as Seen
You will not be entitled to a refund where a fault was pointed out prior to the purchase.
6. Advertised Prices
Many people believe that if goods are mispriced whilst being advertised (including on the shelf), the shop is obliged to sell the goods at that price. This is a myth and the shop is not obliged to do so. However, if it is the case that the shop has intentionally misled you, or if you complain and the shop puts the goods back on the shelf at the same price without amendment, this is a potential criminal offence.
So always remember, if the goods are faulty, the law will govern your rights over and above the returns policy.
If the goods are not faulty you will have to smile sweetly and act in accordance with the particular shop’s returns policy.
On a final note, it is worth remembering that during the Christmas period many shops extend the timeframe in which you have to return an item so keep an eye out for this at the time of purchase.
This is a guest blog post written by Biscoes Solicitors, with offices in Portsmouth, Waterlooville, Wickham, Petersfield, Portchester and Gosport.